“A walkable culture is an amazing thing,” Siobhan Wright said, thinking back on the past week in Paris. For the last seven days, our group truly has walked the culture of Paris, from the highest windows of Sainte Chapelle to the lowest, narrow alleys of the Latin Quarter, from the glistening rooms at Versailles to the rickety tables at the sidewalk cafes. We’ve tasted, touched, and traipsed our way through the City of Lights, experiencing some of the most remarkable things it had to offer. And Siobhan is correct: it is amazing.
I wanted to know what people on our trip felt about their time here. Each person was silent for just a moment after I asked them to convey a favorite memory from their trip, smiling as they thought back on everything they had done. For some who had been here before, it was about seeing the sights that they hadn’t on their last trip to Paris, like Dr. William Fell and Deana Mignon did.
“I really enjoyed seeing things I hadn’t seen before,” said Dr. Fell. “Like the Pantheon. I love the idea of this place, of just being somewhere where people come and think. And there were buildings at Versailles I hadn’t been in. Just seeing these places you read about in stories and book and now get to see, that’s pretty wonderful.”
Deana Mignon has been here before, and was a valuable resource to newer travelers, such as offering advice about where to buy the best souvenirs and staying safe when walking around alone. And as a veteran traveler to Paris, she was also unfazed by some of the more brazen parts of the city. When walking up the Metro stairs, another traveler urged her to not look over at an advertisement featuring two very scantily dressed men. Deana looked anyways, and then laughed.
“Honey, I’ve seen it all before,” she grinned. “They do it differently here in France.”
However, even Deana found new experiences one day when she strolled through a part of France she had not yet seen, and some of these new sights made her reminiscent of the past.
“I went and walked around Montmarte, up and down the streets,” Deana said. “There were some lovely shops, just fabulous shops! Oh, and the costumes! They had costumes for the little ones, tiny tutus, and these big sparkly costumes, they were all there. They reminded me of those old shops, like down in Fells Point. They’re not there anymore, but all those wonderful old shops on Gay Street and Broadway.”
First-time visitors to France are also leaving with fond memories. Tyler Foos said the free day where he visited Picpus Cemetery was the highlight of his trip. Then he recalled the very eventful night where the group embarked upon a night cruise on the Seine river. While cruising under one of the bridges, an passerby dumped a large container of beer down upon the boat, drenching a couple of people.
“I almost knocked two ladies over trying to avoid it,” Tyler laughs. “I would like to mention that I was succesful and did not get wet! The two girls in front of us absorbed most of it. And I don’t know what language they spoke but they definitely knew the f-word.”
New and old travelers alike, one of the most distinct aspects of the trip lies in the varied collection of people who chose to go to Paris. Despite an age range of 18 to 80, everyone quickly formed a closely-knit group, finding friends, and aided each other whenever possible.
Kim McShane said, “I think it was the sense of community that was immediately established among from travelers from day one that made this trip what it was. Mr. Byrd helped out, and Deana was looking out for the younger guys who haven’t traveled much, and Tyler was helping everyone he could. It was pretty amazing to experience all that. ”
Siobhan expanded upon Kim’s comment, appreciating the chance that two different groups of people had to be one assembly.
“This is really the only time you see the students and the community body really connect and do something together,” Siobhan said.
Not only was it a chance to meet and bond with people from other areas of the community, the trip was also a valuable learning experience for future travels. Siobhan commented that she told some of students on the trip that, at some point, they would have an assignment on the metro and getting from one place to another, an assignment they accomplished. She also praised them for taking the things which they had learned about in classes and turning it into something they could refer back to now and further expand their knowledge base.
“It’s so important to have the courage to step forwards,” Siobhan said. “And they did it.”
Kim added in, “I hope students can keep their confidence from these experiences and carry that through their future trips.”
As someone who has now taken two trips with this group, I can say that there is an immense sense of gratification earned from each minute of the time spent abroad. It is not simply the satisfaction of being able to say “I have been there”, but to know that I have been and for going I have learned something which is irreplaceable. From the educational aspects, such learning about these unbelievable places while walking in them; to the personal aspects, like when I was able to study my favorite painting in the Musee d’Orsay; this trip was not simply an experience, but an immersion into a city that is abundant with opportunity and wonder. And for having been there, I am immeasurably thankful.
To Paris, we say “À la prochaine”: Until next time.
For any community member or student interested in embarking upon the next Study and Travel Abroad trip through Carroll Community College (CCC), the next journey will be to Italy in the spring of 2016. Plans are underway to visit sites in both Florence and Rome, promising an adventure just as breathtaking as this trip was. For more information, contact William Fell or Siobhan Wright at CCC.